The Mental Illness Awareness Week blog, sharing stories of recovery, personal experiences, and mental health/mental illness news.


Face-to-Face with Alicia Raimundo

My name is Alicia Raimundo, and I have been through an interesting life for a 23 year old.  Growing up, I had a great family who provided anything I could ever need or want for.  I had a great education from both the public and private school systems. However, I was a different kid.  For as long as I can remember I did not experience the joys and happiness the other kids did.  I spent much of my time worrying about not being about to cheer myself up and hating myself for not being perfect.  I was the kid that no one really noticed, who starved for some sort of attention from my peers or teachers. In my darkest days, I remember wishing that someone would bully me, so that someone would notice me.  When I tried to make friends, I was so anxious about not being good enough that I would brag or put down the other kid to try and show them that I could be good enough. This, of course, did not work. I shut down, and just assumed that I could not make friends. 

 At that point, the loneliness, anxiety and depression took over and I decided that I should not be alive anymore.  I spent time speaking to professionals and trying to get up the courage to take my own life when I encountered a woman in a therapy office. She looked at me and said “from one crazy person to another, you will need this” and handed me a necklace that said hope.  Hope was something that I never had, well, other than hoping for more cookies as a young kid.  At that moment, I knew I could not give up on myself until I had tried breaking my life into smaller goals to hope for.  As I was working out this plan in my mind the woman’s daughter came up to me and said “I am sorry, my mom is in a manic phase and is giving away her stuff… can I have the necklace back”.  This woman and her daughter saved my life, and they will never know it.  I hoped to watch my sister graduate from high school ( which happened two years ago) and now I hope to stay here to show others that living doesn’t have to be so hard.  I am empowered by many great youth centric organizations like MindYourMInd and have many tactics in place to combat my bad days.

Recovery is possible because we are all mental health superheroes. We fight our illnesses like the bad guys in comic books and we are strong enough to make it to today, to reading this blog post. Recovery is easier, when we can fight our bad guys without a mask. When we feel comfortable enough in our communities that fighting a mental illness is okay, and not something to be ashamed of.  Our society is not there yet, but with great events like MIAW, amazing charities, and companies like Bell we will get there one day soon.  We need to make it so people don’t have to choose between getting better or having respect of society.  We need to allow them to be Iron Men and Woman. To fight their illness, their bad guys, and have respect for being strong enough to achieve everything in spite of it. 


Face-to-Face with Laurie Pinard

Hi, my name is Laurie and I live with mental illness. My story is about hope. My story is about the fight. I’m a 44 year old woman who has fought my way back to health from the edge of despair and darkness. I lost everything I had and I almost lost my life. I am here to give hope to anyone who suffers with mental illness that it is possible to get well and lead a fulfilling, productive life.

I used to have a big life but lost it all – my career in politics, my money, my possessions and most of my relationships due to mental illness. I suffered for years from bipolar disorder until I hit rock bottom in 2009. I have tried to commit suicide more than once and was hospitalized numerous times. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I admitted I needed help and sought it.

I never believed I could get better. I never believed in hope or the possibility of a healthy existence. All I saw was darkness. My mind didn’t work. My body was in constant pain. I was a broken person. How could it be possible that I could ever get better? Well, I proved myself wrong and slowly but surely began to get my health and sanity back.

The road to wellness began slowly. As each day progressed I put one foot in front of the other and made progress towards stability. Some of the help I received included a great psychiatrist, an incredible therapist, the loving support of my parents, a steady regime of nutritional supplements, a great deal of restful sleep, and lots of physical exercise. However, the single most important element of my recovery was me. I decided to finally take responsibility for every aspect of my life, my illness, my recovery, my treatment – absolutely everything. It was this decision to face my fears and choose to live instead of giving into the darkness that made the difference in my recovery.  I decided to change my attitude from being a victim of this illness to being an advocate of healthy living despite having a mental illness disability.

Responsibility meant working harder than I’ve ever worked before. It meant getting up when I didn’t want to. It meant facing fears I was terrified of. It meant pushing myself despite the hardships. The key to my health and recovery was accepting responsibility and fighting for a life I dreamed of. I wanted to be healthy, strong, and independent and I wanted to thrive. The only way I was going to achieve those goals was to fight – fight, fight, fight!

Today I am proud to say I’m a running instructor who motivates others. I’ve also returned to university in the field of social work. I want to become a social worker to help others like me who struggle with mental illness challenges. I still have bipolar disorder but today I have learned how to live with it and create a life I thrive at. Each day is still hard, but since deciding to face my fears and embrace difficult challenges I have developed the strength to work with my disability and face life head-on. Anyone, absolutely anyone can come back from the depths of despair to live and thrive. I did.


Face-to-Face with Sandra Yuen MacKay

            My name is Sandra Yuen MacKay and I have schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. The teenage onset of my illness was gradual–so much that I believed the voices and ideas in my head were real. Even after being diagnosed, I was entrenched in my false beliefs. Still I took my medication and fought to keep my head above water and live as normal a life as I could. My family suffered with me every time I experienced a crisis or ended up back in the hospital. It wasn't until my last major relapse at the age of 32, I realized I had to change my negativity and self-critical attitude if I was going to improve. I exercised at the gym and swam, introduced positive self-talk, learned about recovery, and rekindled my interest in painting. I began to write and get published. I made new friends. Recovery to me meant having purpose and happiness in life, finding a niche, and social inclusion. I redefined who I was as an artist, writer and public speaker. By becoming pro-active in my own recovery and aiding others by sharing my story, I evolved into a more confident, resilient, and mature Sandra.

            Nowadays, when I have an interfering thought, I question it. Is it true or part of paranoia? Is it similar to other delusions I've had in the past? Am I stressed about something else which is causing me to have a symptom?

            Everyone's story is different. There are mental health consumers who can't work and can't afford food or other needs even with disability assistance. But I believe recovery is possible with newer medications, improved care and supports, and increased government funding. If their basic needs are met, consumers have a better chance to recover. In British Columbia, Vancouver Coastal Health has opened over 200 new tertiary mental health beds, which will offer consumers holistic care and give them the tools to reintegrate into the community when they are ready. But there is more work to be done.

            The sooner one gets help the better the prognosis. Support from family and friends was crucial in my case. First, I had to believe in myself, educate myself about mental illness and create a wellness toolbox including a daily maintenance plan to keep well, stress management, coping strategies, and access to proper medication. I recognized small successes and replaced self-stigma with a better self-image and opened the door to take on new challenges.

            This year I also received the Courage to Come Back Award in the mental health category for people who have faced severe adversity, risen above it and given back to the community.

            To learn more about my memoir, My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, and my art, please visit my blog at:


Face-to-Face with Chantal Poitras

My name is Chantal Poitras. I am 31 years old and I live in Fredericton, New-Brunswick. I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). When Mental illness came into my life in 2005, I felt that my life was falling apart. This is when I realized that something was wrong with me, but what? At the beginning, I was told that I suffered from a mild depression, due to my job and various events that happened that year.

I got over it, found another job, but still, something was not quite right with me. My behavior was often erratic and my suicidal thoughts were constantly present. A friend then told me about BPD and said that many of my behaviors seemed to fit the description I gave her. I started to do some research on the Internet. I read everything I could find on BPD. I finally had to admit it to myself. I probably had BPD.

In 2010, I went to see a psychologist. I told her I suspected I had BPD. She asked me to do several tests and came to the conclusion that indeed, I had BPD with depression, anxiety and aggressiveness. However, it was only in January 2012 that this diagnosis was added to my medical file. Now, I can finally have the appropriate therapy for BPD, a group therapy named STEPPS.

Recovery is possible, but you have to work hard. You have to seek the help that works for you. The first step I took towards my own recovery was to send an email to the Canadian Mental Health Association in my area. I felt lost, I did not know where to find the help I needed and they took care of me. They knocked on doors for me when I did not have the strength to do it myself. It is important to talk to someone who can help you find the help you need, if you are not able do it for yourself.
Living with mental illness is difficult, yet not impossible. Life can still be beautiful, but you have to accept that there will always be ups and downs, more so than for most people. You can still accomplish great things, have a full time job, a family and friends, and most important, you can realize your dreams. However, you must seek help, always continue therapy treatments, even if sometimes it is hell; it takes time, but eventually, hope returns.


The Blue Veil - by Leigh Turgeon

The Blue Veil cannot be allowed to oppress,
So listen, understand, you could change a life.
-The Blue Veil, 2012, Leigh Turgeon

I have personally been dealing with depression for a long time. At first I was unaware of what was happening to me and felt terribly alone even in a crowd of people. I wanted to cry when all my friends were laughing. Then I attempted to get help and was told I would be taking medication for the rest of my life, news which in itself was even more depressing. It felt like I was slipping and sliding down a dark path alone and I could not go back or even change my direction it was just down, down, down.

One night, on a very rare occasion that I had gone out with my friends, I sat there looking around the table and it dawned on me that none of my closest friends, confidants, former roommates had a clue of the inner turmoil that I was dealing with, I had successfully ‘veiled’ this pain from them until I had totally isolated the sadness internally. I longed to be in touch with these women again. As I looked around the table I envied their happiness. So at that moment I blurted out, “So, I have depression…I’ve had it for a while…and I am going to write a book about it and call it ‘The Blue Veil.’ Everyone sat there stunned at my admission, but wow did it feel good! So, ‘The Blue Veil’ was born.

I would never want anyone to ever felt as alone, trapped and misunderstood as had felt. I wanted to promote depression awareness on three levels. The three levels of awareness I mean are depression self-awareness, depression awareness for family and friends living with a depressed person, and depression awareness in the community, such as in the workplace, community or school environments.

Well, I am one person. While it is my goal to have ‘The Blue Veil’ have a global reach, I chose to support 15 depression awareness organizations to support with proceeds from the book, as they are all organizations that provide support for people with depression and anxiety and victims left behind by suicide. Most of them are national organizations for six different nations including the U.S., England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Australia. All of them are established, legitimate organizations which have helped hundreds of thousands of people and I am proud to associate my story and experience with them. I never wrote the book to make money. I wrote it so that no one ever feels trapped behind the Blue Veil, stifled by depression the way I did on that night out with my friends, when it dawned on me that none of my closest friends had a clue of my inner turmoil.

I, as it turns out, will not be taking medication for the rest of my life. Did you know that depression can have remission? I am now walking on a lighter path and I could head in any direction I want. All I know is that it will be forward, forward, forward.


10th Annual Champions of Mental Health Awards Gala: A Great Success!

The Champions of Mental Health Awards Gala, held on May 7, 2012 at the Chateau Laurier, was once again an overwhelming success! This year marked the 10th anniversary of Champions and the event was met with an outpouring of support and recognition. The Gala brought together prominent political figures, business leaders, members of the national media, and sponsors to recognize and celebrate the outstanding efforts of individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the advancement of the mental health agenda in Canada.

Several public figures attended the Gala this year in support of Canada’s mental health community, with 32 Parliamentarians in attendance including Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Minister of Labour the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Finance the Honourable Jim Flaherty, and House Leader the Honourable Peter Van Loan. The Gala also included a few new elements from previous years, including a red carpet arrival for guests and the addition of a reception room where guests could mingle and pose for photographs. Photographs from the evening are available for viewing at:

We were please to recognize five exceptional Champions this year, each of them having worked tirelessly to increase awareness surrounding the importance of mental health and to create positive changes in their own mental health community. This year’s winners in each of the five categories were:

Community Individual: Michael Landsberg, TSN Broadcaster
Community Organization: Cardinal Newman Peer Mentors, Stoney Creek,
Ontario Public Sector Individual: Senator W. David Angus, Q.C., Ad E.
Private Sector Individual: Scott Chisholm, Founder of the Collateral Damage Project
Researcher: Dr. Trang Dao, Psychiatric Researcher and Advocate for the Mentally Ill

We would like to offer our most sincere congratulations to this year’s winners, and a heartfelt thank you to all nominees for their support, dedication and commitment to Canada’s mental health!

The Champions of Mental Health Awards Gala would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors – Bell as our presenting sponsor and the generous contributions of RBC, Janssen, Rx&D and Eli Lilly.


The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health Promotes the 10th Annual Champions of Mental Health Awards Campaign

CAMIMH Seeks Nominations for the Latest Champions of Mental Health

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) is excited to have launched the tenth annual Champions of Mental Health Awards and is looking for nominations from members of the public!

The annual Champions Awards are a national awards gala which brings together political decision makers, business leaders, members of the national media, sponsors and other stakeholders to celebrate individuals and organizations whose exceptional support have advanced the mental health agenda in Canada in the past year.

This is a unique opportunity for Canadians from all regions and backgrounds to nominate an individual or an organization that they think has made a remarkable contribution to mental health in Canada. In extraordinary numbers, Canadians are coming forward to help advance the mental health programs in this country and to reduce the stigma that has been associated with mental illness for far too long

The Champions Awards are held in Ottawa each year with awards given to individuals or organizations who have contributed significantly to Canada’s mental health agenda. Past Champions include The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the Honourable Lisa Raitt, and Margaret Trudeau, among many others.

This year, the national gala for the Champions Awards, will be held at the Château Laurier on May 7th, 2012. Nominations are accepted in several categories, including private sector; public sector; research; community (individual), and; community (organization).

To nominate a Champion, please visit for details. Submissions will be accepted until March 31st, 2012. The Champions Awards winners will be selected on April 10th, 2012.

For more information or to book tickets, please contact:

Kalene Tilson, Champions Awards Organizing Committee
Tel. : 613-233-8906 Email: